Books: Visions Before Midnight — Likely Lads |
[Invisible line of text as temporary way to expand content column justified text width to hit margins on most viewports, simply for improved display stability in the interval between column creation and loading]

Likely Lads

Sequels are rarely as strong as the originals, but Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? (BBC1) is currently breaking the rule. The lines are acted out with engaging clumsiness by Rodney Bewes as Bob and James Bolam as Terry. With his large featureless head, Bob is the perfect visual complement for Terry, who has a small set of headless features: the chums can fluff, miss cues and just plain forget without even once looking like strangers to each other. But it’s the writing that stars: Dick Clement and Ian la Frenais are plainly having a wonderful time raiding their own memories. Rilke once said that no true poet minds going to jail, since it leaves him alone to plunder his treasure-house. Writing this series must be the next best thing to being slung in the chokey.

Back from the forces, Terry has spent the last couple of months trying to pull the birds. Bob, however, is on the verge of the ultimate step with the dreaded Thelma, and last week felt obliged to get rid of his boyhood encumbrances. Out of old tea-chests came the golden stuff: Dinky toys, Rupert and Picturegoer Annuals, all the frisson-inducing junk that Thelma would never let weigh down the shelf-units. ‘I need these for reference,’ whined Bob, with his arms full of cardboard-covered books: There were Buddy Holly 78s — never called singles in those days, as Terry observed with the fanatical pedantry typical of the show. Obviously Bob will have a terrible time with Thelma.

Just as obviously his friendship with Terry will never cease: Damon and Pythias, Castor and Pollux, perhaps even Butch and Sundance, but never — not in a million years — Alias Smith and Jones (BBC2), which is typical American TV in that the buddies have no past.

11 March, 1973

[ The original unedited version of this piece can be found in our Observer TV column chapter ]